Tuesday 6 November 2012

Round-Up week ending 4th November 2012

Welcome to the latest weekly Round-Up. 

We are really looking forward to our next talk with Aarathi Prasad on the 14th and looking further into the future we can reveal that in January we will be visited by Robert Llewellyn (yes that one) who assures us he will be travelling to us by electric car and in March we will have Andy Lewis of the Quackometer that avid readers will know we have linked to many times in the past.

More exciting news is that we now have a cracking new DVD page on both this site and over on Facebook. Head over there and give us a like! Our latest disc of Martin Taylor's "Hypnotism without Hypnosis" talk will be available at Aarathi's talk and can be ordered, along with our increasing back catalogue from either page if you can't pick up a copy in person.

First up, the results of the Turing's Sunflower Project, set up to mark the centenary of the mathematician's birth, are in and it looks like the code cracker was right. Just up the road from us the 70 year old but little known story of Tamworthian Colin Grazier recounts how some of the Enigma material that aided Turing and shortened the war was recovered.

More code cracking as the Y chromosomes of just 36 men has provided new insights into the history of modern humans and predicts a major expansion of the ancestral human population not previously identified. Yet more DNA news as Vaughan Bell highlights the possibility that DNA testing may not be as objective as we might like to think it is.

News of a new book out as Oliver Sacks, author of the excellent and accessible “The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat” describes how he wouldn't have so much empathy with patients who suffer from hallucinations if he hadn't experienced so many himself.

Two final science links now as David Robert Grimes looks at the supposedly scientific claims made by pro-life advocates and Tim Harford makes the case, as Ben Goldacre has previously, for the need for a drugs trial register.

This next link should under the science umbrella too as it is to a pubmed page, but unfortunately a certain amount of bull gets through the net, well bull semen at least. Apparently you can “take” samples from 4 bulls, then give them homeopathic sugar pills, then “take” samples again and, hey presto, apparently homeopathy works. Apparently. Or maybe with no controls and such a low sample size the true answer may be a lot closer to the (NSFW) slogan on this Daily Mash homeopathy t-shirt.

This week we've come across everything you might possibly want to know about reiki which is so mindblowingly peculiar it has to be seen. Who knew that “Divine Love and Light flows down the right leg and into the earth”? You can also check how valid graphology is as a recruitment tool and take a short test to find out if you're psychic. If you're extrovert, sensitive, arty and, above all, gullible then congratulations you'll be as good as the best mediums in the world. Which may not be that good after the Merseyside Skeptics' Halloween Challenge as reported in last week's Round-Up. As you can see from that link the psychics tested were perfectly happy with the tests but, as Chris French discussed when he came to talk to us, when the results were known the psychics suddenly (and expectedly) changed their tune.

Talking of psychics, Simon Singh has collected the initial documents relating to “Psychic” Sally's legal action against the Daily Mail. The sticking point may well be her claim that she is a “professional psychic”. Just how will she prove that? I'm getting popcorn.

While we're on flights of fancy, here are a couple of pie in the sky ideas. Anyone want a black box that produces huge amounts of energy via an as yet unknown form of nuclear energy? This convicted scam artist has one. You could also get your hands on a “Superhuman Encoder” wristband which will... Well, have a look. Needless to say it's “quantum”.

To tip you totally over the edge here's what it's like to spend an entire day at a David Icke event. This guy did so you don't have to. It may be fun to point and laugh occasionally but there is usually a serious side to the barmpottery preached by such people as shown by the increasing worry that Australian pilots and their planes may be targeted by people who are convinced that their airliners pump out mind-altering chemtrails.

Not too much in the very loosely named religion section (thankfully) this week. Scottish Catholic leader Cardinal Keith O'Brien has been named by Stonewall as its Bigot of the Year which has caused a bit of a stink from politicos and church leaders who claim that labelling people bigots is counterproductive. Have they considered that public figures spouting bigoted views may be counterproductive too? O'Brien crops up in the New Humanist Bad Faith Awards too where you would think he is a strong contender but looking at some of the others I wouldn't be too sure.

I've picked just one of the Hurricane Sandy is a punishment from god stories in that muslim clerics are blaming that stupid, crappy film concocted by a US coptic christian. Feel free to peruse the others. A google search only gets 4 million hits.

More furore this time in Camden as there are objections to the proposed statue of Christopher Hiotchens due to his “islamophobia”. Who knew?

Finally, the residents of Winnipeg, the murder capital of Canada, will be able to sleep safely in their beds knowing that their new Chief of Police is convinced that prayer will play a “significant” role in reducing crime. At the end of his tenure will he be saying that the prayers worked or that not enough people were praying hard enough? Only time will tell.

I'll leave you with a rather nice video from the folks at the Skeptics Guide to the Universe. It looks like pseudo-science has a new enemy.

So grab another pack of godis skum and enjoy...

This Round-Up was compiled by Chris Richardson with additional links from Roy Beddowes.

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